Liberia: Gender Minister, Independent Information Commission Summoned Over Failure to Honor FOI Request
MONROVIA – The Independent Information Commission (IIC) and the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Williametta Saydee-Tarr have been summoned by the Civil Law Court on their refusal honor a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
They are to appear before the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice on July 5, 2020.
Allieu Badara Mansaray, through his attorney-in-fact, filed a lawsuit for judicial review for the refusal of the IIC of Liberia to carry out its mandates to provide administrative reliefs after receiving a complaint from him on February 28, 2020 owing to gross and non-statutory refusal Ministers Saydee-Tarr and Hassan Karneh to provide information requested based on relevant provisions of the Freedom of Information Act of 2010.
The information law provides that everyone, irrespective of nationality, may request public information from the Government of Liberia, through agencies responsible or in possession of the information. Information to be requested from Government agencies and organizations which received public money, includes: meeting minutes, agendas, programs, budgets, expenses, recordings and other acts of the Government of Liberia, or organizations which received money from the Government of Liberia. This definition covers academics, business and not-for-profit organizations receiving money from the public treasury. Nevertheless, the law provides limited exceptions on information that may not be requested: i.e. information relating to security or trade secrets. The information requested by Allieu are not exempted. Howbeit, the MGSCP grossly refused to supply the requested information on two completed human trafficking cases and the trips’ schedules of Minister Tarr in her official capacity for the period 2018 to 2019.
Because of the MGSCP refusal to provide the information, Mr. Manaray complained to the IIC for administrative review, but the IIC, 1st Respondent, failed to carry out its mandate to investigate and to order the MGSCP, 2nd Respondent, to compile and surround the information to requester Manaray.
According to the writ, the Information Commission, first respondent, and the MGSCP, 2nd Respondent, are to individually answer to the writ within 10 business days, or judgement by defaults will be rendered against them by the Civil Law Court of Montserrado County, if they fail to answer.
Many onlookers see the lawsuit as one of the tests to compel the Government of Liberia to comply with integrity laws, particularly the Freedom of Information law through judicial review.
The Petitioner is represented by Cllr. Finley Y. Karngar, a human right advocate and attorney in fact of petitioner Badara Mansaray.